Rush were a band with a gallery of influences every bit as eclectic as the Natural History Museum. Just look at ‘The Spirit of Radio’; there are elements of about nine different genres all clobbered into the same four-minute song there, not to mention the wavering music odditorium that is ‘2112’. In the studio, every band member seemed to bring along their own lunch, and together they would make a buffet out of it, so to speak.
Alex Lifeson’s unmistakable sound is the very product of such eclectic influences. The guitarist seems to mix core blues tenets that the likes of John Mayall and Peter Green made soar in a rock ‘n’ roll fashion with a hefty glug of progressive Steve Hackett-like wizardry. This level of innovation isn’t easy to come by in music, and that is mostly down to the fact that it is exceedingly difficult to pull off.
However, there are a few guitarists who have dabbled in complex, genre-less arrangements, one of them being Jeff Beck. Thus, it is perhaps no surprise to see Lifeson list his solo record Blow by Blow among his five essential albums in a Guitar Tricks Insider feature back in 2018. As he once said of his hero: “Jeff Beck has a tone like no one else, maybe because he doesn’t play with a pick very much.”
Continuing: “He also has a very strong left hand and can move the strings almost effortlessly. He’s still cranking it out today, but he doesn’t put out albums as often as I’d like; he works only when he feels like it.”
However, he isn’t the only guitar virtuoso to make the list. Speaking about his hero Jimi Hendrix, Lifeson once said of his Bob Dylan cover ‘All Along The Watchtower’: “This is one of the most beautiful songs and arrangements ever recorded. Hendrix took a Bob Dylan folk song and turned it into a symphony. The acoustic guitar on this song [played by Dave Mason] has such beautiful compression.”
Adding: “It doesn’t slap you; it caresses you. This song grabs your heart and sails away with it; it sounds unlike anything anyone has ever done. That was the magic of Hendrix: even if you copied what he recorded and tried to play like him, it could never be the same.”
Hendrix might be unrivalled, but he isn’t the only singular guitarist making the list. Steve Hackett is also largely inimitable with his wild style and Lifeson is quick to recognise his innovation. “Steve Hackett is so articulate and melodic, precise and flowing,” he told Guitar magazine.
Adding: “I think our Caress of Steel period is when I was most influenced by him. There’s even a solo on that album which is almost a steal from his style of playing. It’s one of my favourites, called ‘No One at the Bridge’.”
You can check out the five albums he selected below, and we tied them up in a playlist for you too.
Alex Lifeson’s five favourite albums:
- 1. Electric Ladyland – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- 2. Blow by Blow – Jeff Beck
- 3. Discipline – King Crimson
- 4. Sounds [sic] Good To Me – Bill Bruford
- 5. Voyage of the Acolyte – Steve Hackett